Yet another reason to use as little coal-generated electricity as possible is provided by a 12/22 eco-disaster in Tennessee, where 5.4 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash sludge from the Kingston Fossil Plant now covers 400 acres of Harriman County. An earth dam was unable to contain the waste created by the coal-fired power plant. A complex river and stream system here provides drinking water to much of the region; it is further compromised by the fact that the EPA, under the current administration, is reluctant to protect these waters from the destructive effects of coal mining and electricity generation. This morning I listened to some functionary from the area assuring his audience that the water was safe, after drinking a glass of it. I lived in Western New York throughout the Love Canal disaster, so I have a pretty good idea of how much these assurances are often worth. It could be safe. Maybe. In any case, I am sure many of the recipients of this drinking water are completely unaware of what goes on at its source—and that could be said of many of us. UPDATE: Chris C. recommends these blog posts from an observer who lives outside of Knoxville.
And now the good news. Apparently, as long as it doesn’t affect the wallets of his buddies, and it’s really, really far away, our current president is okay with protecting some of the water under U.S. control. As many of you have likely heard, three areas of the Pacific Ocean—the Marianas Trench (site of the deepest point on earth), Rose Atoll, and Pacific Remote Islands have been designated as marine national monuments, receiving the highest level of environmental recognition and conservation. This amounts to 195, 274 square miles of protection, within which are reef sharks, giant clams, nesting petrel, and other creatures that only the most intrepid of us will ever see.